Addressing the detection of and removal of illegal content from online platforms represents an urgent challenge for the digital society today. However, so far, there is no harmonised and coherent approach across the European Union. On 28 September 2017, the European Commission (“Commission”) published a communication titled „Tackling Illegal Content Online – Towards an enhanced responsibility of online platforms” (“Communication”). The Commission calls for a more aligned approach as it would make the fight against illegal content more effective. An aligned approach would also benefit the development of the Digital Single Market. The Commission stresses that online platforms carry a significant societal responsibility and shall, therefore, decisively step up their actions to address this problem.
Scope of the Communication
The Communication does not as such change the existing legal framework. It rather lays down a set of non-binding guidelines and principles for online platforms to step up the fight against illegal content online in cooperation with national authorities, Member States, and other relevant stakeholders: “It aims to facilitate and intensify the implementation of good practices for preventing, detecting, removing and disabling access to illegal content so as to ensure the effective removal of illegal content, increased transparency and the protection of fundamental rights online. It also aims to provide clarifications to platforms on their liability when they take proactive steps to detect, remove or disable access to illegal content (the so-called “Good Samarian” actions).”
The Communication does not only target the detection and removal of illegal content; but it also takes into account issues arising from removal of legal content (“Over-Removal”), which may impact the freedom of expression and media pluralism. Therefore, the Commission calls for adequate safeguards which shall properly prevent Over-Removal.
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